Con­cord rules

Jamaica Gleaner - - YL: FEATURE - MELISSA MCKEN­ZIE Con­trib­u­tor Melissa McKen­zie teaches at Old Har­bour High School. Send ques­tions and com­ments to kerry-ann.hep­burn@glean­

AHEARTY wel­come to you, stu­dents! In a pre­vi­ous les­son, we ex­plored the sub­ject and pred­i­cate of a sen­tence. In this les­son, we will fo­cus on the rules of con­cord. Re­vis­ing these rules will min­imise sub­ject-verb agree­ment blun­ders that are some­times seen in sto­ries and es­says.


Sub­jects and verbs must agree in num­ber. This is the fun­da­men­tal rule that forms the back­ground of the con­cept.


1. A sin­gu­lar sub­ject (she, Bill, car) takes a sin­gu­lar verb (is, goes, shines), whereas a plu­ral sub­ject takes a plu­ral verb. Ex­am­ples: a) Bill is go­ing to the beach. b) Trudy and Jessica love ice cream.

2. Two sin­gu­lar sub­jects con­nected by ‘or’, ‘ei­ther/or’, or ‘nei­ther/nor’ re­quire a sin­gu­lar verb. Ex­am­ples: a) My aunt or my un­cle plans to go the wed­ding. b) Nei­ther John nor Pa­trice is avail­able. c) Ei­ther Kiana or Casey is help­ing to­day with stage dec­o­ra­tions.

3. The verb in an ‘or’, ‘ei­ther/or’, or ‘nei­ther/nor’ sen­tence agrees with the noun or pro­noun closer to it. Ex­am­ples: a) Nei­ther the plates nor the serv­ing bowl goes on that shelf. b) Nei­ther his sis­ter nor his par­ents en­joy veg­eta­bles. c) Ei­ther the bears or the tiger has es­caped from the zoo.

4. As a gen­eral rule, use a plu­ral verb with two or more sub­jects when they are con­nected by ‘and’. Ex­am­ple: The man and the woman visit the mu­seum very of­ten. Ex­cep­tions: Break­ing and en­ter­ing is against the law. The bed and break­fast was charm­ing.

5. Some­times the sub­ject is sep­a­rated from the verb by such words as ‘along with’, ‘as well as’, ‘to­gether with’, ‘be­sides’, ‘not’, etc. These words and phrases are not part of the sub­ject. Ig­nore them and use a sin­gu­lar verb when the sub­ject is sin­gu­lar. Ex­am­ples: a) The politi­cian, along with the news­men, is ex­pected shortly. b) Ex­cite­ment, as well as ner­vous­ness, is caus­ing her to shake. c) The boss, to­gether with his sec­re­tary, is in the of­fice.

6. In sen­tences be­gin­ning with ‘here’ or ‘there’, the true sub­ject fol­lows the verb. Ex­am­ples: a) There are four books on the shelf. b) There is a man at the gate. c) Here are the cars.

7. Use a sin­gu­lar verb with dis­tances, pe­ri­ods of time, sums of money, etc, when con­sid­ered as a unit. Ex­am­ples: a) Five miles is very easy to walk. b) Ten years is the max­i­mum sen­tence for that crime. c) Ten thousand dol­lars is too ex­pen­sive.

8. Some col­lec­tive nouns, such as fam­ily, cou­ple, staff, au­di­ence, etc., may take ei­ther a sin­gu­lar or a plu­ral verb, de­pend­ing on their use in the sen­tence. Ex­am­ples: a) The staff is in a meet­ing. (Here the staff acts as a unit.) b) The staff are in dis­agree­ment. (Here the staff refers to peo­ple as in­di­vid­u­als.)

9. The verb is sin­gu­lar if the two sub­jects sep­a­rated by and re­fer to the same per­son or thing. Ex­am­ple: Red beans and rice is my mom’s favourite dish.

10. Don’t get con­fused by the words that come be­tween the sub­ject and verb; they do not af­fect agree­ment. Ex­am­ple: The dog, who is chew­ing my shoes, is usu­ally obe­di­ent. 11. The sin­gu­lar verb form is usu­ally used for units of mea­sure­ment or time. Ex­am­ple: Four quarts of oil was re­quired to get the car run­ning.

12. In­def­i­nite pro­nouns such as: ev­ery­one, ev­ery­thing, ev­ery­body, no­body, any­one, some­one, some­body, some­thing, etc, al­ways at­tract sin­gu­lar verbs. Ex­am­ples: Some­body is in Sandy’s truck. Ev­ery­body needs af­fec­tion. Ex­cep­tion: (few, many, sev­eral, both, all, some) al­ways take the plu­ral form.

13. When gerunds are used as the sub­ject of a sen­tence, they take the sin­gu­lar verb form of the verb; but, when they are linked by ‘and’, they take the plu­ral form. Ex­am­ples: a) Play­ing in the rain was not a good de­ci­sion. b) Swim­ming in the ocean and play­ing drums are my hob­bies.

14. There is a dif­fer­ence be­tween the form of the verb that agrees with the ex­pres­sions ‘the num­ber of’ and ‘a num­ber of’. When used in a sen­tence, ‘a num­ber of’ agrees with a plu­ral verb while ‘the num­ber of’ takes a sin­gu­lar verb. Ex­am­ples: a) The num­ber of cars in the park is amaz­ing. b) A num­ber of bal­loons are in the sky. Please note the dif­fer­ence. 15. Col­lec­tive nouns like herd, sen­ate, class, crowd, etc, usu­ally take a sin­gu­lar verb form. Ex­am­ples: a) The herd is stam­ped­ing. b) The class gets noisy if the teacher leaves. 16. Ti­tles of books, movies, nov­els, etc. are treated as sin­gu­lar and take a sin­gu­lar verb. Ex­am­ple: The Burbs is a movie starring Tom Hanks.

If sub­ject-verb agree­ment poses a chal­lenge to you, please re­vise these rules. Re­mem­ber, the sub­ject and the verb must be in agree­ment.

I will end this les­son with two ac­tiv­i­ties. Com­plete them and next week you will be pro­vided with the an­swers.


1. Ev­ery­one (has, have) a right to ques­tion the speaker on the sub­ject mat­ter.

2. Four dol­lars an hour (is, are) what the Ben­netts pay the babysit­ter.

3. The boss (want, wants) to em­ployee a new em­ployee for the project.

4. The art gallery down­town (dis­plays, dis­play) amaz­ing paint­ings.

5. Most of Mark Twain’s books (con­tains, con­tain) hu­mour.

6. Each per­son (is, are) in­vited to at­tend the open­ing cer­e­mony.

7. The guests (seems, seem) to be en­joy­ing them­selves.

8. The man with the bird (lives, live) on the street.

9. The rate of mur­ders in the com­mu­nity (is, are) quite dis­turb­ing.

10. A num­ber of home­less peo­ple (is, are) on the street.


The level of crime (has, have) be­come very alarm­ing and the gov­ern­ment (needs, need) to im­ple­ment mea­sures that will ad­dress it. The num­ber of mur­ders that (is, are) com­mit­ted daily (is, are) un­ac­cept­able. If the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties (fails, fail) to al­le­vi­ate the cases of crime that (oc­curs, oc­cur) the coun­try’s im­age will be af­fected. An­swers to last week’s syn­onym ac­tiv­ity: B,A, D, C, A, C, D, B, C, A We will meet again next week.

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